In Matthew’s parable of the talents (25:14-30), a master entrusts his three servants with very valuable coins.
The first two servants double their share, earning their master’s praise. The third is fearful of taking a risk, so he buries his share in the ground, which leads the master to chide him and cast him out.
Following its Parable of the Talents Challenge, which took place from April 30-June 18, Mercy Prayer Center officials were full of praise for all of the challenge’s participants, who used $50 talent grants donated by Dalzell’s Hearing Center to start 37 different fundraising projects that included talks, craft sales, dinners, teas, raffles, benefit haircuts, massages and concerts. One event that raised $1,500 was a Singing Waiter Brunch, which featured a performance by Kevin Conners, a lead vocalist with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany.
In all, the challenge netted more than $20,000 for the prayer center, and 10 percent of the net proceeds will go to Water for Sudan, a local charity that builds wells in southern Sudan. The challenge was so successful that plans are being made to host it again next year, said prayer center Administrator Jerry Lupien, a parishioner of St. Rita in Webster.
"We hope in the future more parishes, and schools and other groups will be participating as well," Lupien said.
The idea for the Parable of the Talents Challenge came from the Rev. Hamilton Throckmorton of Federated Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, who on Sept. 9, 2007, challenged his congregation one Sunday to live out the parable — and provided each adult with $50 in seed money to do so. The congregation raised $40,000 for three charities, and the project ignited the town as members used their money to allow plane and motorcycle rides, recording CDs and making crafts, among other things.
The congregation’s efforts were chronicled in an Associated Press article that ran nationally, prompting other media outlets to highlight the story.
"Somebody read it on the Internet and brought it up to Sister Jody," Lupien said, referring to Sister Jody Kearney, Mercy Prayer Center’s program director.
He said the challenge met each of its three goals: raise funds for the center and an area charity, build community and raise awareness about the prayer center.
"We made a lot of new friends, because people who came to different events or donated money added new names to our mailing lists," Lupien said.
The center is a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community and receives an annual subsidy from the congregation to cover part of the gap between program revenues and expenses. The prayer center employs five full-time and two part-time employees, two regular volunteers and countless other volunteers.
One of the volunteers is physical-education teacher Diane Ferrucci, who is a member of the center’s advisory board and is on its program-development committee. Ferrucci said that she initially had trouble thinking of what she would do with her $50 grant. She considered raising money by taking blood-pressure readings and other wellness measurements, but then hit on the idea of giving personal-training sessions.
She raised about $2,000 that way, and some of her total was money donated by friends so that people in need could have free personal training.
"The thing that was so exciting to me was that I was able to help people who probably never would have joined a gym," said Ferrucci, who teaches at Wilson High School in the Rochester City School District.
Ferrucci said she was gratified to see that people continued to stick with their workouts even weeks and months after their personal-training sessions ended, and many lost weight and improved their health, she said. She also sent participants motivational e-mails to help them stay on track. A program is planned for the fall at the prayer center to help participants brush up on what they learned.
Ferrucci, a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brighton, said she is a fan of the prayer center because she values the staff and the quietness and time for reflection that she finds there.
"I call it my sacred sanity spot," Ferrucci said.